Chess Traps | Caro-Kann Defence

The Caro–Kann Defence is a chess opening characterised by the moves:

1. e4 c6

The Caro–Kann is a common defence against the King's Pawn Opening and is classified as a "Semi-Open Game" like the Sicilian Defence and French Defence, although it is thought to be more solid and less dynamic than either of those openings. It often leads to good endgames for Black, who has the better pawn structure.

The opening is named after the English player Horatio Caro and the Austrian player Marcus Kann who analysed it in 1886. Kann scored an impressive 24-move victory with the Caro–Kann Defence against German-British chess champion Jacques Mieses at the 4th German Chess Congress in Hamburg in May 1885:

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Bd3 Bxd3 5.Qxd3 e6 6.f4 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.Nf3 Qb6 9.0-0 Nh6 10.b3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Nf5 12.Bb2 Rc8 13.a3 Ncxd4 14.Nxd4 Bc5 15.Rd1 Nxd4 16.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 17.Qxd4 Rc1 18.Kf2 Rxd1 19.Qxb6 axb6 20.Ke2 Rc1 21.Kd2 Rg1 22.g3 Kd7 23.a4 Rc8 24.b4 Rcc1 0–1

Mainline: 2.d4 d5

After 2.d4 d5 the most common moves are 3.Nc3 (Classical and Modern variations), 3.Nd2 (usually transposing into 3.Nc3), 3.exd5 (Exchange Variation), and 3.e5 (Advance Variation).

3.Nc3 and 3.Nd2

3.Nc3 and 3.Nd2 usually transpose into each other after 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4. Since the 1970s, 3.Nd2 has increased in popularity to avoid the Gurgenidze Variation (3.Nc3 g6); however, some players choose to allow it.

Classical Variation: 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 

Classical Variation after 4...Bf5

The most common way of handling the Caro–Kann, the Classical Variation (often referred to as the Capablanca Variation after Cuban grandmaster José Raúl Capablanca), is defined by the moves: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 (or 3.Nd2) dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5. This was long considered to represent best play for both sides in the Caro–Kann. White usually continues: 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3. Although White's pawn on h5 looks ready to attack, it can prove to be a weakness in an endgame.

Much of the Caro–Kann's reputation as a solid defence stems from this variation. Black makes very few compromises in pawn structure and plays a timely ...c6–c5 to contest the d4-square. Variations with Black castling queenside gave the Caro–Kann its reputation of being solid but somewhat boring. More popular recently are variations with Black castling kingside and even leaving his king in the centre. These variations can be sharp and dynamic.

Here is a brilliancy illustrating White's attacking chances when the players castle on opposite sides in the Classical Variation:


Lev Milman vs. Joseph Fang, Foxwoods Open 2005

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 (10...Qc7 avoids White's next) 11. Bf4 Bb4+ 12. c3 Be7 13. 0-0-0 Ngf6 14. Kb1 0-0 15. Ne5 c5?! (15...Qa5 is usual and better) 16. Qf3 Qb6? (necessary was 16...cxd4 17.Rxd4 Nxe5 18.Bxe5 Qc8 19.Rhd1 Rd8 20.Ne4 with a small White advantage) 17. Nxd7 Nxd7 18. d5 exd5 19. Nf5! Bf6 20. Rxd5 Qe6 21. Bxh6 Ne5 (21...gxh6 22.Rd6 Qe8 23.Rxf6 Nxf6 24.Qg3+ mates on g7) 22. Qe4 Nc6 23. Qf3 Ne5? (23...gxh6 24.Rd6 Qe5 25.Nxh6+ Kg7 26.Nf5+ Kh7 with an unclear position) 24. Qe4 Nc6 25. Qg4! Qxd5 (25...Ne5 26.Rxe5 Qxe5 27.Bxg7 Bxg7 28.h6 wins) 26. Bxg7 Qd3+ 27. Ka1 Ne5 28. Ne7+!! Kh7 29. Qg6+!! fxg6 30. hxg6+ Kxg7 31. Rh7# (White is down a queen, a rook, and a bishop!)